CEOs and Communicators
I was recently in Phoenix, Arizona at a conference on building and protecting reputation. It was hosted by Henkel. My part was to talk about what CEOs should be talking about now. More on that later this coming week but wanted to blog about the talk from Henkel’s NA Consumer Goods president and CEO Brad Casper about working with corporate communications. It was good to hear a CEO talk so positively about the importance of his corporate communications team. Just by taking to time to talk to us at lunch time said boatloads. Casper said that he believes that there are 6A’s in how a CEO and corporate communications function can work together to establish and build trust. The CEO mentioned that his philosophy was that not communicating was far riskier than communication. His 6 A’s are:
- Anticipation (knowing what the organization needs to see and hear). Casper talked about what he did once he agreed to take the job. He was an “outsider” CEO so he was unknown to employees who were dealing with a change in ownership. He mentioned how the first person he asked to talk to was the head of corporate communications because that person would know best what he needed to know, how to resonate with employees and gain traction internally and externally. He was delighted when she showed up with a playbook in hand.
- Access (making sure that he demonstrated that he was available and accessible personally). To develop that bond with employees, Casper along with corporate communications set up regular lunches with high potentials, monthly town meetings, and an online ABCs (Ask Brad Casper) on the intranet. He also started Breakfast with Brad and had lunch with new employees. Being accessible was one way to create that bond that builds CEO reputation and drives productivity and inspiration.
- Awareness (to demonstrate that this was a new beginning since they had just been bought by consumer goods giant Henkel in Germany), the CEO and corporate communications decided to bring everyone together to participate on this journey. They rented out a nearby movie theatre within the first 100 days and had all employees attend to hear about the new strategy, hear about the future, create a vision, and help build a bridge between being what was once a U.S. company (Dial Corporation) and the multinational they were now.
- Alignment (aligning the strategy with the core values and history of Henkel). Casper talked about the resonance of being part of a family. Several generations of the Henkel family had created this Fortune 500 company and this emotional narrative had to be intertwined into the NA Henkel fabric. He used this expression at our conference that stuck in my mind—that they would build their brand not as a company “but as a house.” That has a nice ring to it.
- Affinity (creating a family atmosphere that is inclusive and engaged with the community). Working with corporate communications, the leadership team worked hard to celebrate innovation, community service and other ways of giving back. Accidentally as they moved headquarters to a beautiful new building, instead of giving everyone the day off on a Friday as the movers packed up, they decided to give back to the community by having everyone volunteer their time in the community. This turned out to be one very smart way to build that camaraderie that helps bind employees to companies and remove doubt that business is all about the bottom line.
- Accountability (the CEO is accountable as well as its employees for the company’s success).
Reputation is often said to be greater than the sum of its parts. However, making sure that all the parts work together and are communicated internally and externally builds longer-lasting reputations. CEO communicators can help make reputations stickier and advance a common purpose.